JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Quarterback is obviously the biggest offseason storyline for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Will they pursue Kirk Cousins or another veteran quarterback? Or will they stick with Blake Bortles, who is coming off the best season of his career?
In addition to quarterback, the Jaguars have other areas they need to make a priority in the offseason. Here are the three biggest:
Lock in WR Allen Robinson: Whether it means signing him to a prove-it deal for one season, a multiyear deal, or using the franchise tag, the Jaguars have to bring Robinson back in 2018. Even though he missed nearly the entire 2017 season with a torn ACL suffered in the season opener and was coming off a somewhat disappointing 2016 season, he’s still the Jaguars’ best downfield playmaker.
Marqise Lee, who led the Jaguars with 56 catches in 2017, is a free agent and is unlikely to be back. Allen Hurns (39 catches in 2017) has missed 11 games over the past two seasons after missing just one in his first two and he’s a potential salary-cap casualty ($7 million in 2018).
Second-year players Dede Westbrook and Keelan Cole had solid rookie seasons but they combined to catch just 10 passes for 167 yards in three playoff games. The Jaguars must bring Robinson back and all indications are they will, but getting him in the fold quickly is important -- especially if the team decides to pursue Cousins (and yes, they have the cap space to do so).
Beef up the running game: This may seem a bit confusing because the Jaguars finished the regular season as the NFL’s top rushing team (141.4 yards per game), but their production dropped off significantly over the final six games. The Jaguars averaged 51.3 fewer rushing yards in Weeks 12-17 than they did during the first 11 weeks.
During their first 10 games, the Jaguars rushed for at least 135 yards nine times and failed to crack 100 yards just once (99 yards in Week 2). In the final six games, however, the Jaguars surpassed 100 yards just twice. The offensive line was relatively healthy during that stretch, with three starters missing a combined four games.
The Jaguars need to get better along the interior of the offensive line. RG A.J. Cann was up-and-down and LG Patrick Omameh is an average player so addressing one or both guard spots in free agency or high in the draft is a must.
Brandon Linder, whom the Jaguars made the NFL’s highest-paid center before the season began, missed three games with an illness and has missed 19 games because of injury in four seasons. He began his career as a guard so an option would be moving him to one guard spot and adding a center.
RB Leonard Fournette was dealing with an ankle injury so his production was limited in the last part of the season as well. He missed one of the final six games and averaged 60 yards in the five games in which he did play. He averaged 92.5 yards in his first eight games (he missed two games).
T.J. Yeldon did a nice job as a fill-in for Fournette and as a third-down back but Chris Ivory isn’t likely to be back. The Jaguars unleashed Corey Grant for four touches for 61 yards in the first half of the AFC title game but didn’t use him in the second half.
Adding another back isn’t a priority but if the Jaguars are able to find one that can help more in the pass game it wouldn’t be a bad idea.
Revamp the tight end position: The Jaguars got very little production out of this position; their tight ends caught an NFL-low 43 passes in 2017. The group’s 505 receiving yards was the second-fewest behind New Orleans (476 yards). Jaguars tight ends also were targeted the third-fewest times in the league as well (79 targets).
Marcedes Lewis led the team with five touchdown catches, but three of those came in Week 3. He caught more than three passes in a game just twice. He had just five catches over the final four weeks of the regular season and just four in three playoff games. Lewis was never a dynamic pass-catching tight end but at this point in his career (2017 was his 12th season) his value is as a blocker.
The Jaguars need a major upgrade at this position, especially in the pass game. There isn’t much out there in free agency with the exception of Tyler Eifert and Jimmy Graham, but they will cost in the $6 million to $7 million range annually and the Jaguars may not want to spend that much. Plus, Eifert has played a total of 10 games the past two seasons because of injury.
However, the 2018 draft class is considered strong at tight end and the Jaguars could go that route in one of the first few rounds. Dallas Goedert, Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews are names to watch.
There also is Mychal Rivera to consider. The Jaguars signed him last March but he suffered a hand injury during camp and ended up on IR before the season began. He caught 146 passes for 1,413 yards and 10 touchdowns in four seasons in Oakland. He had his best year in 2014, when he caught 58 passes for 534 yards and four touchdowns, but his production dropped the last two seasons and he caught a career-low 18 passes in 2016 as the Raiders phased him out in favor of Clive Walford.
Rivera may be able to help in 2018 but the Jaguars should still make upgrading this position a major priority.